Vintage Japanese Red Kamakura Bori Lacquer Letter Box w/Lid

This is a vintage red Kamakura-Bori Urushi lacquered document box with carved lid in an Iris motif. The side of the lid is beautifully textured and carved giving further decorative detailing to the piece. The interior is black and contains two lacquered pieces to separate documents. Excellent condition with no dings or chips. Typical of the period, the piece is not signed and was made for the Japanese market. Age: Early Showa, (1926-1989). Dimensions: 7 -3/4” w x 9-1/2”L x 2-0”d.

Additional Information—

The native term for lacquer itself is urushi. Etymologically, urushi may be related to the words uruwashii (beautiful) or uruoi (watered, profitable, favored). Additionally, the 17th/century term “japanning” refers to the range of techniques used to imitate various Asian lacquerware in Europe and Great Britain.

The art of lacquerware most likely arrived in Japan from China via the Chinese writing system. By the Kamakura period, (1185-1333), Japanese craftsman, under the influence of the Song Dynasty arts, focused on carving Buddhist imagery into thick coats of lacquer, (Kamakura-bori). Craftsmen at this time began applying between 8-16 coats, (this gives the depth of color indicating quality), of thin lacquer to a carved wood base and in this way reducing production time, (drying), and making lacquerware available beyond temples, to the samurai, (who studied the arts and customs), merchants, and eventually the general population.

Today, lacquerware is produced throughout Japan, and many regional techniques and variations are producing objects suited to a contemporary lifestyle. Besides the very old Kamakura tradition mentioned above, the port town of Wajima provides a good example of regional lacquerware. Wajima-nuri, dating back to the 16th century, is characterized by the use of the elm-like Japanese Zelkova tree, (keyaki), powered earth, and delicate features formed from cloth. In 1979, Kamakura-bori was approved as a Traditional Handicraft by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

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